‘Doctor Shopping’ Blamed for Prescription Drug Overdoses

oxycontin“Doctor shopping” is a term used to describe the practice of going to multiple doctors in order to get duplicate prescriptions for addictive medications – often in the service of an ongoing prescription drug addiction. New research says that those who engage in this practice are at increased risk for dying due to drug overdose.

Why Do People Doctor Shop?

Maintaining a prescription drug addiction isn’t easy. There are numerous controls and regulations put into place, and most doctors are on the lookout for drug-seeking behaviors that can indicate a need for drug addiction treatment. Patients who need more medication may find that they can only get a finite amount from one doctor, so they look for another doctor and, without disclosing their current prescription, describe the same or similar symptoms in order to receive a duplicate prescription. When they fill that prescription at a different pharmacy, they can often fly under the radar for months or even years with no one finding out that they are getting as much as double the medication they need – until it’s too late.

Putting a Halt to Doctor Shopping

One of the most effective ways to stop the practice of doctor shopping is the institution of statewide databases for pharmacies and doctors – in theory. How it is supposed to work is that doctors enter a patient’s prescription into the database when they prescribe it, allowing all other pharmacies and doctors in the state to access that information whenever they prescribe or process a prescription for that person. This allows a doctor who is about to prescribe an addictive drug to a patient to see that he or she already has a prescription for the same or a similar drug. It also allows the pharmacist to intervene if he or she notes that the patient is getting prescriptions filled from multiple doctors or at multiple pharmacies.

But there are limitations:

  • Not all states have prescription drug databases.
  • The states that do have prescription drug databases do not have high numbers of participating doctors or pharmacies.
  • There is no interstate database connecting statewide databases, which allows patients to simply cross state lines for multiple prescriptions.

Marie Abate is a professor at the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and faculty affiliate in the university’s Injury Control Center. In a university news release, she said: “These programs currently exist in most states, and efforts are under way to create one large program that would compile the controlled-substance prescription data from all participating states.”

Getting Help for Prescription Drug Addiction

As with all addictions, the primary responsibility for avoiding overdose and other problems related to addiction lies with the patient and the patient’s family. If someone you love is abusing prescription drugs, don’t wait for them to overdose or for their doctor to recognize what’s going on before you step in. Call now to find out how we can help here at Axis.